Although I was the manager of the factory, the official manager was Aharon Peknayev, a religious Bucharian Jew. He did not mix into anything that went on in the factory and I paid him every month to officially represent us. I figured that he would probably find out what had happened so I told him about the incident and minimized how terrified we had been, so he would not be afraid to continue working with us.

We both decided not to say anything to the manager of the main office, a clever non-Jew by the name of Konstantin Nikolaievitch Alexandrov, who had worked with religious Jews for many years. We agreed that we would only tell him what had occurred if he found out indirectly.

Not a day went by before I was told that the manager wanted to see me immediately. When I arrived at the main office, he called me into his room, closed the door, and with an expression of combined pain and fear he asked, “Zaltzman, what happened at your plant? Did you make a secret synagogue there? They called me from the KGB! Do you know what the KGB is? That’s not the OBHS!”

(In the Soviet Union there were two government agencies, the OBHS and the KGB. The function of the OBHS was to preserve order in the economy of the country, to battle corruption, theft, embezzlement, etc. They primarily dealt with crimes against property. The KGB’s function was to fight spies, enemies of the state and the like. You could bribe someone in the OBHS, but the KGB was an entirely different caliber. Thus, when they called him from the KGB office he was terribly frightened, and he nearly cried in fear when he spoke to me about it.)

At first I thought that he had found out about the incident that had occurred the day before at the factory, but I gathered from what he was saying that something new had cropped up. He said that he had received a phone call from the KGB office and they asked him to send all of the files of the workers at our plant. He tried to stall and said that he was not permitted to send personal information based on a phone conversation, and if they wanted it they should send one of their people to ask for it personally.

To his surprise, within half an hour a KGB agent arrived and took all of our files.

What did they have against us at the KGB office?

Within our limited group we tried to conjure an explanation. At first we thought that perhaps since many of us had previously submitted a request for a visa which fell under the responsibility of the KGB, they had decided to track us. But on second thought, we discarded this idea. For something like that they would not have arranged such an extreme raid to the point of seizing everyone who left the factory and interrogated them.

We thought that perhaps they had discovered all of our underground work over the years and were trying to collect proof. We went about our work over the next few days with heavy hearts, fearful that something disastrous was brewing at the KGB headquarters, and we tried to keep the incident quiet even amongst our friends.

Around that time, I needed to travel to Tashkent and while there I met with R’ Simcha Gorodetzky. I told him what had happened and added that the KGB had explained that the purpose of their raid was because they were searching for someone and had mistakenly suspected that he was with us.

R’ Simcha did not buy that story and claimed that it was not like them to make mistakes of such magnitude. If they discovered that it was a mistake, why did they ask for the workers’ files the next day? The best explanation was that they simply wanted to scare us, because if they had any concrete evidence against us, they would have already arrested us. But who knew? Perhaps they really did discover something.

Once the agents had entered our lives, we got involved in another “project” of sorts. When we saw one of them walking in a friendly manner with other people, we knew that the people they were conversing with worked for the KGB as well, and we tried to memorize their faces. That is how we spied on those who spied on us, but with one small difference. We could not do anything to them other than be wary, while they could do whatever they wanted to us.

Days, weeks, and then months elapsed and nothing happened. We finally sent word to the students to return to Samarkand and it was as if nothing had ever happened.